Book Update

“Can’t wait till your book comes out!”

“Let me know when your book is out!”

“Hey, when’s your book coming out?”

This post is for all my friends and acquaintances and great people I met while I was traveling, to answer their ever-optimistic questions.

First, the book (working title: The Crimson Sofa) is now scheduled for publication in fall 2015.

That seems a long way off, yes? This, alas, is the way book publishing works. And, you’re not imagining it, it has gotten further off since I started this whole thing. Thanks in part to my own failure to grasp how book publishing works. Despite having worked in the industry off and on for more than fifteen years.

Two pro-tips (which, in the spirit of all pro-tips, are screamingly obvious once you write them down and look at them):

PRO-TIP #1: In your proposal, don’t just guess what your word count might be.

It’s hard, right, that you have to say how many words a book will be, before you write it? And there’s no straightforward way to find out how many words there are in other, comparable books?

I understand, the publishing people have to do their own math, according to some arcane formula which mere writers don’t know. So when I first started writing, I emailed my editor as soon as I realized my estimated word count was way too low. Because I had, yes, just guessed in my proposal. (“Let’s see…Peter wrote a book that was 60,000 words? It could be longer than that. But what if nothing happens on my trip? Better be conservative… Um, 70,000? Yeah, that’s the ticket. 70,000.”)

Turns out, that was a problem. Turns out I should’ve been more careful at that stage.


PRO-TIP #2: 150,000 words is way too many words.

OK, I know it’s too many words. I mean, obviously some needed to be cut. I just didn’t know it was omg-my-head’s-exploding-I-can’t-even-deal-with-this too many words.

Which is a totally inaccurate paraphrase of my editor’s reaction, but an accurate depiction of the fallout. In order for my editor to be able to deal with my book, I had to cut it massively. My pub date got bumped, from next spring to next fall.

I spent the last few months alternately gnashing my teeth and cutting every fourth word of every single sentence. (Reading this post, you can perhaps sense how that kind of cutting would be possible, yes? Buh-bye, “just,” “really,” “perhaps,” etc. Buh-bye, parenthetical asides. Buh-bye, rhetorical questions.)

I spent a fantastic week in southern Utah, with no internet. I rode a train. In the end, I emerged with 92,000-ish words, which I just submitted today.

file name crimson sofa

Which is crazy to me, because I eat that many words for breakfast. The last Lonely Planet job I did, just the Cairo chapter of the Egypt guide, plus some front matter, was 82,950 words. (Maybe I should have considered this, at the proposal stage!)

So, long story short, the draft is on my editor’s desk. I have no idea if the short version is really tenable as a book. I’ve been stuck in the swamp of it so long, I hate nearly every word of it, and I can no longer remember what the point of writing it might have been.

I’m hoping a couple of months off, updating my Moon guide to Santa Fe (approximately 98,000 words), will restore some perspective. Time usually does that.

Which, I suppose, is the silver lining around book publishing taking so long–you need that time just to love your book again. And I hope you’ll all still be around, still asking about the book, when it does finally come out. Thanks for all the support, over this long haul.